preached at CAC Friendly Baptist Church (a child-led church in East St. Louis) Sunday morning for Martha Stearns Marshall Month
Do any of you know people who are hard to love? One of my favorite books is A Wind in the Door. It is the story of a girl named Meg who is very protective of her little brother, Charles Wallace. Charles Wallace is in kindergarten and WAY too smart for his own good. Not only does Charles Wallace already know how to count and identify shapes and colors, but he reads grown-up books on science and math. Do any of you like reading science and math books? They aren’t usually my choice for fun reading. But Charles Wallace had read so much that he didn’t just know more than the other students, he knew more than the teacher. Doesn’t that sound cool? But there was one problem – whenever Charles Wallace would talk about something the teacher didn’t know, the teacher thought he was just making stuff up – that he was using his imagination and inventing it all. And he would get in trouble. Have any of you ever been in trouble for something you didn’t do? It isn’t fun, is it?
That’s when Meg decided to stick up for her brother. Since she was older, she went to a different school, but she decided that she would walk Charles Wallace to his school and talk to the principal, Mr. Jenkins. But her plan didn’t work out well. Meg didn’t like Mr. Jenkins, and as she talked to him, things just got worse. Mr. Jenkins didn’t want to do anything to help. AND he tried to get Meg in trouble.
Mr. Jenkins was hard to love. There have been plenty of people in my life that I’ve found hard to love – from the 1st grade teacher who scared me, to the people who seem to know all the right ways to get on my nerves to the folks who are just downright mean.
In our Gospel reading for today, Jesus says “you’ve heard it said ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” That’s how it should be, right? We can just love our friends and families and Chaplain Drew and Melissa… and we’ll just hate all the people who pick on us or mess with us or look at us funny. Isn’t that what we do most of the time?
But Jesus wasn’t finished. He continues, “But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
Have you ever heard people say “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?” What does that mean? It means that a child is a lot like his or her parents. I’m often told I’m a lot like my Dad. We have a lot of the same interests. We both like music, writing and computers. We laugh at the same things – often jokes that no one else finds funny. And we are both preaching today. We both feel God has called us to ministry.
Jesus tells us that our relationship with God should be the same way. We are children of God – we were made in the image of God. Just like people can look at us and say “you have your mother’s eyes” or “you have your daddy’s nose” or “you two must be sisters because you have the same smile,” people should be able to look at us and see hints of God.
And what qualities does Jesus tell us God has? I’ll give you a hint – it is in verse 45. Yeah, it says “he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
Have you ever seen a beautiful sunset or a pretty flower and heard someone say that God was painting you a picture to say “I love you?” That message is there for all of us – even those who want nothing to do with God. God loves all of us anyway.
If we are God’s children, we need to love others, too – even those that are hard to love.
Remember the story with Meg and Mr. Jenkins? Meg decides she has to learn to love Mr. Jenkins. She struggles, because she really just wants to complain about Mr. Jenkins. But she finds that when she starts really paying attention to the good things that he does and finding the things that make him unique and special, he is easier to love.
And, by the way, if you are wanting to read the story, I didn’t give anything away. It is a great adventure with dragons and time travel and an opportunity to save the world – and I’m giving a copy of The Wind in the Door – and the book that comes before it, Wrinkle in Time to the CAC so you can get a chance to read it for yourself.
If we want to learn to love our enemies, we can learn from Meg – sometimes it is easier to love someone if we think about what makes them special – what is good about them. After all, God made them and loves them, too. Sometimes, it is hard to love them on our own. Remember that Jesus also said to pray for those that persecute us. Do you know what persecute means? It means that someone is treating you poorly because of something you believe or something about you. Charles Wallace was persecuted because he was so smart. When we pray for people, something cool begins to happen – we begin to see people as God does. When someone is hard to love, we can pray for God’s help and begin to pray for that person, too.
Let’s be the kind of children who look like the God who lovingly created us. May we not fall far from the tree.
101. An amazingly weekend with Baptist Women in Ministry friends in Atlanta
102. A chance to hear the stories of other women who are called to ministry
103. Mellow Mushroom pizza AND incredible chocolates
104. Coming home to dinner with the hubby
105. Opportunity to preach at CAC Friendly Baptist Church
106. Receiving an amazing plaque from two sweet girls
107. Getting to share L’Engle books with kids